“A turntable of contemporary life”: Doug Aitken turns Hirshhorn Into 360-Degree Screen

As if Diller Scofidio + Renfro’s giant inflatable balloon set to rise (sometime) from its roof, Up-style, weren’t a sufficiently kinetic addition to the Smithsonian’s Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington D.C., the institution announced in a press release yesterday that artist Doug Aitken will turn the building’s circular facade into an enormous 360-degreen screen for nearly two months this spring.

For the multichannel projection “SONG 1″ (2012) — which will be on view from March 22 to May 13 — Aitken will use the building’s distinctive curving exterior wall as a screen for moving images streaming from 11 high-definition video projectors. While the images that will make up “SONG 1″ remain a mystery, they will be structured around the pop music classic “I Only Have Eyes for You,” new versions of which have been created especially for this project by Beck, LCD Soundsystem’s James Murphy and others.

“The building is at times emphasized and at times disappears completely into the content of the artwork,” Aitken writes. Of the way “SONG 1″ engages the building’s unique architecture, Hirshhorn deputy director and chief curator Kerry Brougher says: “He directs the tempo of life around the museum. The facade of the Hirshhorn is not merely a screen for the projection of some fictional cinematic world — it is a turntable of contemporary life.”

The project, the largest undertaken by the Los Angeles- and New York-based artist, will be especially confounding for Aitken completists: due to its circular screen, it will be impossible to watch the entire video in a single viewing.

— Benjamin Sutton

Rendering of “SONG 1″ (2012) courtesy of the Doug Aitken Workshop.

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